After two and a half months of voting, the fourth Best of the West has come to an end and the results are finally here.
If this were The Bachelor, I’d say this year’s Best of the West is the biggest, most shocking, most dramatic reader poll EVER. And that would be mostly true. We get more voters every year, with 5,019 voters showing up in 2019 — how appropriate.
In fact, there are a lot of interesting numbers to look at here. We have the most categories ever this year too, for instance, with 140 categories spanning everything from your hair stylist to favorite German beer. Across those, 109,961 votes were cast. That means, with 5,019 voters, there was an average of 21.9 votes per person. We require 15 votes to submit your entry, so it’s good to know some of you aren’t just doing the bare minimum.
We can do some more with those stats — the survey ran for 75 days, which means roughly 67 people voted per day. I don’t know if that sounds impressive or not, so how about this: 1,466 votes were cast per day. That’s a bigger number, which is fun!
Here’s what I’m really interested in though: Which categories were most popular? Theoretically, I could go through all 140 categories and add their vote totals up, but that would take about one infinity times longer than I have. However, we split up the categories into seven larger groups, so let’s take a look at those instead:
You could say though, “Josh, these groups have vastly different numbers of categories. Cultural Arts only has six categories to vote in, while Dining has 38 — this is totally unfair!” And you’d be completely right. You would have totally destroyed me with facts and logic, and I’d be crying on the floor.
THAT’S why, in my infinite genius, I invented the Categories Owning Our Love (COOL) score. What I’ve done is take the total number of votes per group and divide that by the total number of categories in each group. This gives me an average of votes per category in each group. If this doesn’t make sense to you, please don’t email me — I’m very busy.
Here are the COOL scores for each group, ranked highest to lowest:
1. Dining: 1173.4
2. Nightlife & Activities: 995.9
3. Music: 780.0
4. Drinking: 697.5
5. Services & People: 527.9
6. Shopping: 488.4
7. Cultural Arts: 464.3
Well, well, well, how the turntables! OK, you might notice that Dining is still in the lead, but not by nearly as much — look how close its COOL score is to Nightlife & Activities. Meanwhile, Music jumped up quite a bit in the rankings. Math is fun. And cool!
What does it all mean, though? Why do we have stronger opinions about Dining than anything else? Well, I’d posit that it simply comes down to the fact we all have to eat. Personally, I do it every day! Then, the Nightlife & Activities group is full of categories like New Brewery, Cocktail Lounge, Distillery and so on — the kind of stuff West Michigan takes a lot of pride in.
Does this mean Shopping is decidedly uncool? NO! It means we’re all broke. Or rather, it feels more reasonable to go out and grab a bite to eat or drink a few times a week than it is to visit local stores that often. What about Cultural Arts — is theater and art passé? NO! We’re all just uncultured swine. Hypothetically, if forced by higher-ups to provide an alternative explanation, I’d say that people who love the arts feel weird comparing the groups to each other.
However, let’s take a look at the actual winners that received the largest number of votes. We don’t like to disclose those specific numbers — potential hurt feelings and all that — but here’s the ranking for the top five:
1. Shopping - Farmers Market: Fulton Street Farmers Market
2. Dining - Hot Dogs: Yesterdog
3. Cultural Arts - Art Museum: Grand Rapids Art Museum
4. Cultural Arts - Symphony: Grand Rapids Symphony
5. Dining - Soup: Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop
Would you look at that! The highest vote-getter is from the Shopping group and two Cultural Arts categories are up there too. There remains hope for us yet.
As you look through the pages ahead, you’ll see a deeper dive into all the categories, so I’ll leave you with one final fun fact: Assuming voters didn’t lie, the most popular ZIP code to vote from is 49503, which covers a large swath of downtown Grand Rapids and beyond. Makes sense!
Thanks for reading, thanks for voting, and thanks for getting the word out. This all only happens because of readers like you. See you next year.